To help keep public school K-through-12 classrooms open for in-person instruction, Vermont has already been distributing free antigen test kits. That existing effort, dubbed Test to Stay, will now reach younger children and people who care for them.

Late Friday afternoon, Gov. Phil Scott tweeted that the effort has already begun:

“Today we launched the ‘Tests for Tots’ program, which will provide rapid antigen COVID-19 test kits to regulated childcare providers across Vermont. These providers can enroll in the program effective immediately.”

Child care providers that sign up for Tests for Tots can pick up antigen kits free of charge either this coming Thursday, January 13 or the following Thursday, January 20 from a Vermont Agency of Transportation garage of their choice. It’ll ultimately be up to the providers to give the kits out to children ages two through five and to child care program staff.

No one from the Vermont Agency of Human Services was available Friday evening for an interview about Tests for Tots. The governor also did not hold his traditional weekly news conference this week due to his State of the State address. However, last week, he explained the goal of antigen test distribution initiatives.

“It will give us instantaneous results, and so the testing will contain the virus — that’s what we’re hoping will happen,” he said on December 28.

Education Secretary Dan French has said that by mid-January, schools will take over as test kit distribution points. This shift may eliminate the long lines seen at VTrans garages and elsewhere in late December as parents tried to pick up kits for their children.

“We will be evolving the use of antigen testing in schools further so we can make them more widely available to students and their families,” French said.

With only a very few exceptions, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine has said that there’s no need to verify a positive antigen test result by getting a PCR test. He’s also explained that, if possible, hospital bed capacity needs to be reserved for the sickest patients.

“If you test positive with an at-home test and you are not severely ill, please do not go to the nearest emergency department,” he said.

Federal stockpiled of antigen test kits are in short supply. State officials hope the supply chain issues can be smoothed out quickly.

“It sounds like a lot when we talk about the President’s goal of half a billion antigen tests available to Americans, but when you do the math, it doesn’t really work out,” the governor said. “If everyone took one, it would be less than two tests per person.”

Staff members in the governor’s office said Friday that state officials will reach out to all eligible child care providers about how to register for the Tests for Tots program. However, the registration form is available by clicking here.